It seems like the rock lobster industry is in for a major disruption. What seemed impossible until now has been made a reality by the Hobart’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies.
The institute has managed to overcome the challenges posed by the lobster’s complicated larval cycle and develop a hatchery process for sustainable lobster farming. The director of the research program, University of Tasmania Associate Professor Greg Smith, touted that the breakthrough was one of the holy grails of aquaculture.
“It’s very exciting … because it’s basically one of the holy grails of aquaculture because it is such a long and difficult larval cycle,” he said.
“Since the 1980s, people have been able to rear very small numbers of rock lobsters, but it’s been on the scale of being able to do it in a beaker, and using various things like antibiotics.
“The breakthroughs that we’ve made are around water treatments, we don’t use any antibiotics at all.”
A senior research fellow was equally enthusiastic about the development and said that the opportunities from the perspective of science seemed great.
“Being able to culture these animals in a laboratory now opens up to science their understanding of the larval stages,” he said.
“We really don’t understand these animals because they live so far out to sea… having them in the laboratory, we can better understand their ecology and the effect of things like climate change.”
“It’s got great commercial and environmental potential. This potentially can have a big effect on the lobster fisheries going forward,” he said.
The metamorphosis, the last stage of the larval cycle, according to the researchers involved, was the biggest stumbling block when developing the hatchery process.
“During that stage, they go from essentially a two-dimensional animal into something that actually looks like a lobster,” Professor Smith said.
“It takes about 10 or 15 minutes and it completely changes the look of the animal.”
Professor Smith is now of the opinion that the possibility of sustainable rock lobster production can lead to the launch of a new commercial industry. “This world-leading science, developed from over 17 years of lobster research, has significantly reduced disease, shortened larval duration, and overcome long-standing density and metamorphosis challenges,” he said. While Professor Smith does not believe that the hatchery process will make farmed lobster less expensive, he says it will definitely help meeting the rising demand for seafood sustainably.
The institute will soon start working with companies in Australia to gauge if the system would functional well commercially.
ABC News Australia